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Great Fire of Toronto 1904: Rare Historical Photos depict the Destruction and Aftermaths

On 19 April 1904, flames erupted from the Currie Building, which was located at 58 Wellington (near where the current TD Centre now sits). These flames turned into a wildfire and destroyed 20 acres of Toronto’s industrial core. The fire destroyed 98 buildings and caused damage of more than $10 million at that time. Only one person died in the aftermath. This disaster is known as the Great Fire of Toronto in 1904.

A police constable on patrol at the Downton reported the fire at 8 p.m. Toronto’s core was an industrial area with several manufacturing buildings. The fire spread rapidly and by 4 a.m. area of approximately 20 acres was destroyed by the wildfire. An alarm at 8:51 brought all firefighters in the city. Later several firefighters from other cities including Buffalo, Hamilton, and London, were also brought into Toronto upon the request of Mayor, Thomas Urquhart. When firefighters reached the fire near Wellington and Bay Streets, they faced strong winds and the water pressure was low. These winds caused the water to blowback and freeze on the firefighters. The wind spread embers and flames from building to building. The many exposed electrical, telegraph, and telephone wires made it hard for firefighters to place ladders on buildings. The fire department controlled the blaze at 4:30 a.m. The affected areas continued to smolder for two weeks with smaller fires popping up and reigniting from time to time.

The exact cause of the fire was never discovered. Theories at the time suggested either faulty wiring or an overheated pipe from a furnace or stove. Here below are some visuals that show the aftermaths of the great fire.

#1 Bay Street from Melinda St

Bay Street from Melinda St

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#2 Wellington Street, south side, east from Bay St.

Wellington Street, south side, east from Bay St.

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#3 Looking north up Bay Street

Looking north up Bay Street

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#4 Street, looking north from Esplande W.

Street, looking north from Esplande W.

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#5 Front Street looking north.

Front Street looking north.

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#6 Burnt Bulidings near the Bay street.

Burnt Bulidings near the Bay street.

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#7 Bay Street west side.

Bay Street west side.

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#8 Looking north east from York Street.

Looking north east from York Street.

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#9 West side of Bay Street looking south from Melinda Street

West side of Bay Street looking south from Melinda Street

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#10 The ruins of aftermath of Great Toronto Fire

The ruins of aftermath of Great Toronto Fire

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#11 The ruins of Great Toronto Fire

The ruins of Great Toronto Fire

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#12 Looking west on Wellington Street from Jordon Street

Looking west on Wellington Street from Jordon Street

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#13 Looking southwest from the top of Toronto Telegram Building

Looking southwest from the top of Toronto Telegram Building

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#14 Looking south on Bay north of Wellington

Looking south on Bay north of Wellington

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#15 Looking north up Bay Street

Looking north up Bay Street

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#16 Looking north up Bay Street

Looking north up Bay Street

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#17 Looking east on Wellington west of Bay

Looking east on Wellington west of Bay

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#18 Front Street West, looking east from Bay Street

Front Street West, looking east from Bay Street

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#19 Front Street west of Yonge

Front Street west of Yonge

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#20 Front Street west of Bay

Front Street west of Bay

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#21 Front St. West, looking east from Bay St.

Front St. West, looking east from Bay St.

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#22 Front and Yonge, with what’s now the Hockey Hall of Fame on the right

Front and Yonge, with what's now the Hockey Hall of Fame on the right

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#23 Bay Street, east side, looking south from north of Wellington St. West

Bay Street, east side, looking south from north of Wellington St. West

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#24 Excavating in the Great Fire ruins for new Customs House, Front Street and Yonge Street.

Excavating in the Great Fire ruins for new Customs House, Front Street and Yonge Street.

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#25 Customs examining warehouse and express office

Customs examining warehouse and express office

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#26 Ruins of fire of 1904, Front Street East.

Ruins of fire of 1904, Front Street East.

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#27 Ruins of fire of 1904, Front Street East

Ruins of fire of 1904, Front Street East

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#28 Toronto fire ruins grown over with weeds.

Toronto fire ruins grown over with weeds.

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#29 Pottery found in ruins of 1904 Fire.

Pottery found in ruins of 1904 Fire.

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#30 Men viewing the demolition of fire remains at site of future Union Station.

Men viewing the demolition of fire remains at site of future Union Station.

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#31 Curio seekers find souvenir in fire ruins.

Curio seekers find souvenir in fire ruins.

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#32 Curio seekers find souvenir in fire ruins.

Curio seekers find souvenir in fire ruins.

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#33 Bay Street north of Wellington, looking south

Bay Street north of Wellington, looking south

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#34 Front Street at Bay looking east

Front Street at Bay looking east

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#35 Telegram Building

Telegram Building

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#36 Lane side of Telegram Building.

Lane side of Telegram Building.

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#37 South-west of Wellington and Bay

South-west of Wellington and Bay

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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